Motorcycle engines roared over the cries and condolences Saturday. A group of motorcyclists followed Terrence Sterling’s casket to its final resting place reminding everyone that the 31-year-old was on his motorcycle when he died.
The fatal police-involved shooting happened early last Sunday morning near Third and M Streets NW, according to D.C. Police.
Acting Police Chief Peter Newsham said police received reports of a motorcycle driving erratically and caught up with it downtown. After officers stopped Sterling, Newsham said he tried to flee and hit the police car. That’s when Newsham said an officer opened fire. Authorities confirmed Sterling was not armed.
But at least two witness accounts contradicted this account.
Those trying to grieve at the Saturday viewing and funeral service were frustrated. Family members and friends packed the Whitehall Baptist Church in Accokeek, Maryland.
“I’m an advocate. I work on behalf of black women and girls every day and this tragedy is affecting our community in a way that, it’s explainable,” Samantha Abrams said. “We can’t comprehend it. We can’t process it. We’re constantly feeling like we’re not going to get anywhere but, we have to have hope.”
Abrams works with the Black Women’s Health Imperative. She also knew Sterling, who serviced an HVAC unit at her mother’s restaurant.
Sterling was also a well-known HVAC technician at Leisure World, an adult community in Montgomery County, Maryland. No one from the family spoke on camera Saturday.
“It was just a wonderful spirit and soul and his life was taken from us, was stolen,” Abrams said.
The investigation into his death prompted D.C.’s Mayor Muriel Bowser, along with acting Chief Newsham, to announce a new policy now requiring officers to confirm with dispatchers that their body cameras have been turned-on.
The Washington Post reported that according to police, the officer did not activate his body camera until after the fatal shooting.
Abrams said she’s been following Black Lives Matter protests across the country, but this was the first that hit home for her. She called on police transparency during the investigation.
Both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Metropolitan Police Department are investigating the incident, Mayor Bowser said.